How can I assess the need for facilities in my area and take a strategic approach to improving provision?

Understanding the context

Having a clear understanding of the need for sports facilities in an area is critical to maintaining and improving opportunities for sports participation. Whilst undertaking an assessment can be resource intensive, if prepared and carried out well, involving a range of local authority departments and other parties such as national governing bodies of sport, it can provide significant long-term benefits across the local government environment, including:

  • Providing information to ensure an efficient and sustainable stock of facilities
  • Supporting the delivery of sports development programmes and wider local government objectives
  • Ensuring a planned approach to budgetary pressures
  • Providing evidence to help develop planning policy and infrastructure planning
  • Helping to shape the development and assessment of planning applications
  • Ensuring a planned approach to rationalisation, including understanding the potential impact of developing new and enhancing, replacing or closing existing facilities
  • Informing facility and asset management including highlighting potential opportunities for asset transfer and alternative delivery options
  • Helping to shape and inform related capital and revenue programmes and expenditure
  • Providing evidence to help secure internal and external investment and influence the decisions taken by other facility providers
  • Helping to co-ordinate resources and investment to maximise their value to sport
  • Providing the necessary evidence to inform detailed feasibility studies and options appraisals.

The extent and scope of an assessment should be proportionate to the purpose of the work and what it seeks to achieve. The important first step in assessing the need should be to prepare and tailor the approach. Before undertaking an assessment it is important that a number of key questions are answered, including:

  • What role do facilities play in meeting the wider vision for sport in an area, how might this change and what is the strategic overview for facility provision?
  • What is the purpose of the assessment, how will it be applied and what should its scope be?
  • How will undertaking the assessment be managed and resourced?
  • Who needs to be involved, how can they best be engaged and what information already exists?

How can Sport England help?

Sport England’s Assessing Needs and Opportunities Guide provides a recommended approach that will help the user undertake a robust assessment of the need for indoor and outdoor sports facilities. This guide points to our Playing Pitch Strategy Guidance for the recommended approach for playing pitches.

The Playing Pitch Strategy Guidance provides a recommended step-by-step approach to assess the need for natural and artificial grass playing pitches and develop and apply a strategy to improve provision.

What's the result?

Using Sport England’s guidance will help to ensure a planned approach to the facility stock in an area by:

  • Having a clear understanding of the need for facilities
  • Enhancing engagement with the sporting community
  • Developing specific priorities and actions
  • Understanding how the findings of the assessment, the priorities and actions can be applied and be of benefit to a range of areas
  • Providing longer-term efficiencies in the provision, delivery and management of facilities.